Who Says You Have To Grow Up?

At 21 years old, and in an age where it seems like everyone is too busy jet-setting and partying to miss their families, I’m ashamed to admit (I’ve already hovered over the trash button several times while writing this post) that I still get very deeply, emotionally homesick quite frequently. I guess I just wasn’t one of those people who “grew out of it” gracefully. I think what it really is is that I have a terrible fear of growing up. After all, I was raised watching Peter Pan religiously, and always thought how lovely it would be to stay young forever. I spent so much of my teenage years wanting to be older that now that I actually am, I feel like I cheated myself by missing out on all the perks of being young and carefree. The feeling always hits me at the strangest times too. I’ll go months without a thought about home, and then one day I’ll stumble across an old photo on my phone, or think of a memory from a family vacation, and instantly the waterworks start. My boyfriend likes to tell me that I express all of my emotions through my tears, but that’s another story for another post.

It started when I was younger. I tried going away to summer camp once when I was in elementary school. I dreamed of going to horse camp ever, and finally my parents were turning my dream into a reality! I eagerly spent weeks preparing, packed my bags, happily sat staring out the backseat window during the four hour drive into the hills of Georgia thinking of all the great memories I would make, and then felt the cold chill of regret as soon as I stepped foot out of the car and watched my parents’ car bumping away down the dirt road leading out of the campgrounds. I made friends with all the other campers quickly and easily, and appeared for all intents and purposes a normal happy child at summer camp, but any chance I could get I would sneak away to cry in a bathroom and seriously reconsider the life choices that led me here. My Taurean pride wouldn’t let myself admit defeat. Eventually, though, my parents had to rescue me because I worked myself up into such a state that I literally made myself ill.

In middle school, when I signed up for a class trip to Europe, I felt that same cold panic run through my body. It happened again when I moved seven hours away to go to college. And again when I moved another four hours away to start my first job after graduation. The horrible, defeating feeling of just wanting your mommy and daddy. Yes, I will reluctantly admit that still today my initial thought in times of intense conflict is “I just want my mom.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as independent as they come under normal circumstances, and by no means have my parents coddled me and done everything for me. But there’s always been a persistent little nagging feeling calling me to my life back home. It’s almost gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, partly because I now realize that my parents were right about virtually everything, they actually do know best and I severely took them for granted when I lived at home, and partly because that whole getting older and growing up thing is really starting to terrify me. In comparison to high school when I couldn’t wait to leave home and could barely be in the same room as my parents for more than an hour without getting into an argument, I now find myself wanting to spend as much time as possible with them.

I’ve been wrestling a lot with my perspective on the situation. At times I’m frustrated, because no one else around me seems to care so much about making time for their families, and other times I’m thankful that I have such an amazing family that I actually miss them and want to be with them as much as possible. Regardless, I’m starting to worry that I’ll never actually feel at home anywhere else but where my family is. And that really, really scares me. How do you make a home? When do you get to the point where your home is not where your parents are?

I’m good at being strong to the outside world, but at times I still feel like that small, vulnerable girl watching her parents drive away and wishing desperately that I could change things. I fear growing up and creating my own home because it feels like a death sentence, like I’m having to lose something in order to move forward. There’s a quote that comes to mind: “Don’t you find it odd that when you’re a kid everyone, all the world, encouraged you to follow your dreams. But when you’re older, somehow they act offended if you even try.” Does growing up really mean giving up your dreams?

And then something happened. I realized that I’ve been thinking about “growing up” the wrong way. If growing up means losing my creativity and passion, falling into a dull routine that I hate, and never seeing my family, then I’m never growing up. I don’t have to grow up in that sense of the word. Sure, I aspire to grow into a wise, experienced and knowledgable individual, but I’m going to keep that child-like love and excitement for the world for the rest of my life. And I started realizing that my child-like love for my family shouldn’t be a weakness in my mind. I’ve been seeing it as a fault, when in reality I should be seeing it as a blessing. I have a foundation that is strong and supportive, that knows when to guide and when to let go, and I can do anything knowing that I have loving arms to fall back on should I ever need them. Knowing that I have my family behind me has given me the boost of confidence that I need to take risks, go out on limbs, and be courageous in everything that I do. I have somewhere that I can go where I can still be that bright-eyed, carefree child ready to take on the world.

So here’s to growing older and wiser, but never growing up. I’ll leave you with this: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.”

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